Willard “Bud” Thompson, 98

Published 6:48 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

Willard “Bud” Thompson, 98

Willard Emery “Bud” Thompson, 98, of Austin, Minnesota, passed away Wednesday evening, March 22, 2023 at The Estates at Roseville in Roseville, Minnesota.

Bud was born in Austin on October 3, 1924. His parents were Soren and Mae (Heskett) Thompson, and siblings were Lorraine Peterson, Marcella Nelsen and Sy Thompson.

Bud attended Austin Public Schools and graduated in 1942 from Austin High School. Athletics were an important part of Bud’s life. While in high school, he participated in football, basketball, baseball and track.

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After graduation, Bud attended the University of Minnesota and played football and basketball until he entered military service during WWII. While at Camp Pendleton, Bud got to play baseball with Phil Rizzuto, Bob Feller, and brothers Vince and Don DiMiggio. On D-Day, Bud and his outfit landed on the Island of Bougainville in the South Pacific. He was a Staff Sergeant and gun commander of the 517th Field Artillery Unit. Bud was stationed on Bougainville Island for two years. It was during that time that a boat he was on was hit and sunk by enemy fire. Bud and some buddies were able to stay afloat for two days until they were rescued. After the Japanese took control of the Philippines, Bud was part of an outfit sent to liberate missionaries from Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. Years later, on the day he joined St. Olaf Church in Austin, some of the rescued missionaries were there to honor Bud.

Bud was united in marriage to Enid L. Nicholsen on April 9, 1947 at the Hormel Home in Austin. They made their home and raised their family in Austin. As a Sears manager in Austin, Bud operated the company’s largest mail order store in the country. He was also the company’s first million dollar salesman and received many awards throughout his 33 years with Sears.

Bud was active in his church and community. He was a member of the Austin Park and Recreation Board, and was a longtime Chamber of Commerce member. Bud was inducted into the Austin High School Hall of Fame in 1991. In 1999 he was presented the Minnesota High School Athletic Directors’ Distinguished Alumni Award. Bud also served on the President’s Physical Fitness Council for the State of Minnesota. He often organized neighborhood baseball games for the kids, including the girls, and even held ‘Olympic’ competitions.

Bud was a gentle, kind and generous man and adored by his family and friends. He enjoyed working in his yard and riding on his lawn mower, and loved animals.

He was preceded in death by his daughter Debra Bushaw; son-in-law William Warwick; great grandson Ellis Bergstrom; parents, siblings, and his two wonderful collies, Annie and Jenny.

Bud is survived by his wife Enid of 75 years; three daughters Susan Warwick of Austin, Mary Gaye (Ron Bergstrom) of Austin, and Julie (Mike) Robbins of Golden Valley; son-in-law Steven Bushaw of LaPorte; grandchildren Chris Warwick, Jennifer Warwick, Sam (Melissa) Bergstrom, Heidi (Kyle) Kelly, Ben (Natalie) Bushaw, Abbie (Travis) Kaehler, Angela (Dan) Burke, Andrew (Ashley) Kelly, Betsy Kelly, Max Kelly; 13 great grandchildren; many nieces and nephews.

We would like to thank the wonderful staff at The Estates at Roseville and The Health Partners Hospice Team for their kindness and excellent care given to Bud during the last year of his life.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday, May 13, 2023 at the Clasen-Mortuary Chapel with Reverend Sheri Mason officiating. Military rites by Olaf B. Damm Post #1216 V.F.W. and Austin Post #91 American Legion. Visitation will be held for one hour prior to the service.